Mercy and Grace: Are They the Same?

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We can find the words grace and mercy used all throughout scripture. Do they mean the same thing? And if not, what is the difference?

Mercy is getting a little less punishment or retribution than what you deserve.

You were caught by that cop going 30 miles an hour over the limit. Justice says you’ve got to pay your $300, but the judge is in a good mood that day and he says, "Aw, pay $150. You still have to pay something, but I’m going to have you pay a little less."

When you broke into your neighbor’s house and stole the 4k Ultra HDTV, justice was two years in jail. That day, the judge looked at your case and said, "You know what? Eighteen months for you. I’m going to be merciful. I’m going to give you a little less than what you deserve."

Psalm 103:8 Our Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get anger and filled with unfailing love.

Psalm 103:10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us as we deserve.

You know what that means? God does not do a one-for-one retribution all throughout the course of your day, like a whack for every sin you commit every so often throughout a day. Can you imagine if he were simply and only just and gave you or me retribution for every single sin we commit all throughout our day? The Bible says that God is merciful. Psalm 103 says he does not give us retribution, sin for sin. He gives us a little less retribution than we deserve.  

Justice is getting precisely what you deserve.

Mercy is getting just a little less than you deserve.

But Grace is something completely different.

Grace is receiving something wonderful and magnificent beyond what you would ever imagine, certainly beyond what we deserve.

Someday, every single person is going to see Jesus Christ, face-to-face. We’re going to see him at the judgment day. The Bible says he still has his nail scarred hands and feet and the wound in his side. And you know what’s going to go through our mind the minute we see him at the judgment day?

We’re going to look at that, and we’re going to go, "Oh, why? God’s Son, why did you come to earth? Why did you take the ridicule and the scorn and the abuse you did? Why did you let them strap that cross to your back and go up to the hill?  Why did you allow yourself to be hung up and die an excruciating death? Why did you do that?"  

You know what he’s going to say? "So you didn’t have to."

That’s grace.


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